Clark County woman in all-female race Amelia Earhart flew in

Jalia Manga and Helen Miller stand by the tail of the Kent State University Cessna 172 Skyhawk that they will pilot in the Air Race Classic June 20 - 23. Submitted photo.
Jalia Manga and Helen Miller stand by the tail of the Kent State University Cessna 172 Skyhawk that they will pilot in the Air Race Classic June 20 - 23. Submitted photo.

Catholic Central graduate Helen Miller grew up in the air. In fact, she cannot remember a time that she didn’t consider flying as a part of life.

“I always remember flying when I was young,” said Miller.

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From the time she was small, Helen, the daughter of Alice and JJ Miller, has fond memories of soaring through the clouds in the family airplane with her father, an airline pilot.

Helen is a Clark County lady. She spent her elementary years at Emmanuel Christian then transferred to Catholic Central. The J-term at Catholic Central was the perfect time for Helen to begin her formal aviation studies online. After taking lessons flying out of the Springfield-Beckley Municipal Airport, she soloed in the family’s Piper Colt.

Since visits to Oshkosh, Wisc., and other gatherings of aviators has always been a way of life for the Millers, it seemed logical that she would seek her own way into an aviation career.

I first met Helen at the Fair at New Boston, where she helps with the historic presentation of a hot air balloon. How fitting, I think since flying is always on her mind.

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Growing up near the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park may also have had some influence on her.

After high school graduation, she was off to study architecture at Kent State University but that major didn’t last long. Her heart wanted to fly and soon she changed her major to seek a Bachelor’s of science in aeronautics with a concentration in flight technology.

Helen hopes to follow her father’s lead into commercial aviation and the airlines.

“He was careful not to push me in the direction of flying,” said Helen, who claims she chose the major on her own.

Now as her college studies are drawing to a close, her aviation horizons are expanding.

Next week Helen Miller will take part in the 41st annual Air Race Classic. This all women’s race is hailed as “Blazing Trails in the Sky — Frederick to Santa Fe.”

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This event can trace its roots back to the beginning of women’s air racing, the 1929 Women’s Air Derby in which 30 enthusiastic women aviators, including Amelia Earhart, raced from California to Ohio.

The Air Race Classic is the heart of women’s air racing and, according to the website is considered the “ultimate test of piloting skill and aviation decision making.”

Each race team must have two women pilots, and fly VFR (visual flight rules) during daylight hours only. This four-day cross country air race travels more than 2,600 miles and includes nine high-speed flybys. There are 50 two-pilot teams registered for the competition. Ten are from colleges. The ages of the women pilots range from the teens to 90 years old.

Flying Kent State’s Cessna 172 Skyhawk, Helen and Jalia Manga, another Kent State senior from Pennsylvania, will take off from Fredrick, Md., on June 20.

They will zig zag on a carefully plotted course that will take them from Fredrick to a flyby at Richard Downing Airport (Coshocton, Ohio), and a flyby at Holmes County Airport (Millersburg, Ohio). The teams will fly over our area then on to Indianapolis; Decorah, Iowa; Bemidji, Minn.; Spencer, Iowa; Abilene, Kansas; Ardmore, Okla.; Plainview, Texas; and Edgewood, New Mexico (final flyby). On June 23, the 50 competing racing teams will land in Santa Fe, New Mexico to celebrate completion of the course.

Helen is excited about the challenges of this course and pleased to add around 50 more hours to her 407 accumulated hours. After this comes graduation and then the sky is the limit.